Half of all services now failing as UK care sector crisis deepends

Five years of funding cuts blamed for crisis threatening the welfare of elderly and disabled people

Nearly half of social care services visited by inspectors in the past year were found to be failing the frail and vulnerable, in what relatives and experts say is a symptom of the growing financial crisis in the sector.

An update given to the board of the Care Quality Commission last week showed that 41% of community-based adult social care services, hospice services and residential social care services inspected since last October were inadequate or required improvement. Of the 8,170 services examined, less than 1% (38) were outstanding and 58% (4,381) were good, according to the chief executive’s report, which was delivered last Wednesday.

The CQC’s chief inspector of adult social care, Andrea Sutcliffe, told the Observer that the figures were extremely worrying. They will raise fresh concerns about the state of the sector after social care providers and council leaders warned in a joint submission to the Treasury last week that the fragility of the care sector was affecting their ability to perform their legal duties to elderly and disabled people.

Earlier this year, this newspaper revealed that the CQC was receiving more than 150 allegations of abuse of the frail and elderly in social care settings every day, prompting Sutcliffe to warn that a broken system was turning good people into bad carers as a consequence of poor working conditions, a lack of training and inadequate staffing.

There is also growing evidence of the crisis having an effect on the health system. A key part of the reason why Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge, one of the NHS’s most prestigious hospitals, was put into special measures last week was that 200 of its beds were being occupied by patients who could not leave because there was a lack of social care in place to support them.

Last week’s appeal to the Treasury by providers and local authorities in advance of the government’s November spending review was made in recognition of the “unprecedented scale and severity of the financial challenges facing the whole of the social care sector”.

 Since 2010, cuts in council-funded adult social care have totalled £4.6bn, or 31% in real terms of net budgets. And these budgets will be cut by a further £500m this year.
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